Roberts shades Hill at Howick Classic
The hugely talented Luke Roberts (RE:CM) continued his incredible run of form when he narrowly edged out top ultra-marathon rider Andrew Hill (TIB Insurance) to claim a deserved victory in Sunday's Lizzard Howick MTB Classic, presented by Sappi.
Having flown somewhat under the radar in the build-up to the hugely popular event, Roberts's very late entry always meant the 40km showdown was going to be a tightly contested affair.
After dropping Patrick Belton shortly after the 10km mark a ding-dong battle with Hill ensued and which could only be decided in the final few metres before the line with Roberts narrowly squeezing out a win.
"My form's been coming along really nicely recently and Andy (Hill) and I had a great race right from the start," said Roberts. "We were racing full on the whole way and then luckily enough I managed to just pip him right at the end so it’s great to get the win."
"It was a really technical track, possibly even the best in the country, and Andy's a really strong competitor so it was a really tough race," he added.
It was smiles a plenty for both riders though and Hill was full of praise for his younger competitor.
"It's always great to come out here to Howick and when you're riding behind one of the best technical youngsters around it is just an absolute honour!" said Hill.
"Luke's and incredible cross country rider so that probably gave him the upper hand on the technical stuff a bit plus he's been in some really good form so hats off to him, he rode a great race today."
"I was really happy with how things went for me. I didn't have any mechanicals and the track was just unbelievable. It was rough and raw and really was world class. It was proper mountain biking out there today," he added.
Despite a promising start from Belton he and Mark Malherbe (Coffeeberry/Momsen) took the scenic route in the latter stages of the race which opened to door for Carl Calverley to storm home and claim the final step on the podium.
"It was a really great race out there today and I'm really chuffed with how things went, said the Marshalls World of Sport/Peschl Sport athlete.
"It’s one of the purest mountain biking events you'll find on the KZN calendar and the trails were just insane!"
"It’s an awesome event and Lizzard is just the perfect sponsor because we did a whole load of 'dirt surfing' out there today," he chuckled.
Kyle Dorkin (Ellsworth SA) claimed fourth with Leeroy Emslie (Peschl Sports) rounding out the top five whilst ex-Springbok and Sharks rugby player Jeremy Thompson (tenth) claimed yet another top ten finish.
The ladies race saw Natalie Bergstrom (The Robert Group) extend her lead at the top of the newly introduced ROAG Series standings when she raced to victory ahead of Julia Colvin (Hattons Cycles) and Nedene Cahill (Pure Adventure Gear).
"I'm very pleased with how things went today," said Bergstrom. "It was pretty technical out there and it definitely tested you but the technical stuff is my game."
"I had a really good ride. I had just the one wipe out where I hit a rock and went right over the top of the bars with the bike crashing down on top of me but fortunately I was able to get back up straight away and get going again."
"I'm really chuffed to still be leading the ROAG Series, the cash incentive is really awesome and it's given me the opportunity to take part in a couple of different types of races that I possibly wouldn't have done otherwise which has been great."
In the 20km Intermediate event Team Jeep youngsters Cameron Wright and Mikaela Jonsson showed just why they are regarded as exceptionally talented youngsters as they cruised to victory in the men's and women's race respectively.
"I was on home turf so I wanted to do well," said Jonsson. "It was a bit chilly this morning when we headed out but it warmed up nicely once we hit the single track."
"The course builders did a really great job. There was some awesome single track and it was a really exciting race," added the young Pietermaritzburg Girls' High pupil.
SUMMARY OF RESULTS
1.Luke Roberts 1:55.16
2.Andrew Hill 1:55.17
3.Carl Calverley 2:00.31
4.Kyle Dorkin 2:05.16
5.Leeroy Emslie 2:05.30
6.David Leiman 2:06.45
7.Klass Meintjies 2:07.45
8.Frederick Rossouw 2:09.22
9.Nick Porteous 2:09.52
10.Jeremy Thompson 2:09.57
1.Cameron Wright 1:00.17
2.Andrew Edwards 1:01.02
3.Sharjah Jonsson 1:05.18
1.Mikaela Jonsson 1:07.02
2.Catherine Pellow-Jarman 1:08.31
3.Tiffany Keep 1:08.41